Do not copy this copy

Ryan Wallman
May 19, 2015

John Wanamaker famously said: “Half my advertising is wasted; I just don’t know which half.”

Well, without wanting to be too presumptuous, I’m reasonably confident about which half the following examples of ad copy would be in.

Let’s start with this asinine alliterative assertion.

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You could be forgiven for thinking that this was a brand trying (way too hard) to appeal to kids. But believe it or not, it’s from an ad for a university.

No, seriously. This is the work of a fully accredited tertiary institution that educates people to do undeniably mature things like design buildings and save lives. So, leaving aside their irritating use of an adjective as a pseudo-noun, why on earth are they trying to sound like an unimaginative teen? “Awesome”? This is, as the kids might say (for all I know), all kinds of wrong.

But if that was too abstract for you, try this one.

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You can imagine the behind-the-scenes planning that went into this, can’t you?“You know those ads where they just have three words, with a fullstop after each one? I love that. Do that. Any words will do.”

I know what you’re thinking, though: the problem with these ads is that there is not enough storytelling. Well, be careful what you wish for.

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You see, everyone has a story to tell these days. Which is all well and good, if it’s a story worth telling. But does this mob honestly believe that people will go out of their way to ‘discover’ the story behind a jar of bloody marmalade (if you’ll excuse the pun)? A riveting tale of preservation against the odds, I’m sure.

So, in case that story didn’t grab you, how about this tantalisingly unfinished one?

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Yes? Delivers the extraordinary … what, exactly? Oh, right, they’re just trying to sound cool.

And they call that an ad? THIS is an ad…

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On a top-10 list of products for which this copy is inappropriate, terrifyingly large knives would have to be right up there. The result is not so much an ad as a warning.

Let’s look at a more upbeat example, shall we?

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Move into a New World? Goodness, which one? Mars? Tatooine?

So that’s quite a promise. But just in case a planetary relocation isn’t enough for you, your status as one of the PEOPLE means you also get POWER. And in the unlikely event that these words alone aren’t enough to persuade you, there’s an exclamation mark to alert you to this thing’s life-changing properties. And you idiotically thought it was just a camera?

Now, while we’re on the theme of change, how about this (from an ad for vodka)?

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Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that “Transform today” isn’t just meaningless nonsense but is in fact a euphemism for “Get so hammered that the next thing you know, it’s tomorrow”. 

And finally, I’ll leave you with this little oddity.

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This copy is almost endearingly baffling. Is it philosophy? A Google Translate attempt gone wrong? Either way, wisdom does not meet headline.

 

By Ryan Wallman, Head of Copy at Wellmark.

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